Home Pets Shocking! Unseen consequences: Florida engulfed by Canadian wildfires. Urgent action needed to safeguard beloved pets and livestock.

Shocking! Unseen consequences: Florida engulfed by Canadian wildfires. Urgent action needed to safeguard beloved pets and livestock.

Shocking! Unseen consequences: Florida engulfed by Canadian wildfires. Urgent action needed to safeguard beloved pets and livestock.


At this point, almost every person in Florida has noticed the hazy cover over the state’s usual blue sky.

Smoke from wildfires in Quebec, Canada, south of the Hudson Bay, blanketed Florida Tuesday, causing dangerous and unhealthy air quality conditions across the state, according to the National Weather Service in Melbourne.

Fortunately, the situation was getting better as of Wednesday. Air Quality Index (AQI) levels of under 100 are considered moderately safe for humans, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow.gov site.

But for those wanting to protect their precious pets from any lingering wildfire smoke in the air, here’s what to know.

More: Are you seeing a haze in the sky? Smoke from Canada wildfire sweeping across Florida

How does smoke from wildfires affect animals?

Like humans, animals can also be negatively affected by wildlife smoke.

According to Dr. Aly Cohen with the Cornell University Riney Canine Health Center, she told USA Today that some animals are more likely to be at risk of respiratory problems, as are pets with pre-existing heart disease or lung issues.

Some breeds of dog, called short-muzzle breeds, also already have higher rates of respiratory issues, including bulldogs, Boston terriers and Cavalier King Charles spaniels. Pet birds and horses also are at higher risk, Cohen said.

How can we protect animals from wildfire?

When wildfire smokes reaches your neck of the woods, it’s critical to keep pets indoors as much as possible and keep windows shut. Birds are particularly susceptible to smoke and should not be allowed outside when smoke or particulate matter are present.

Despite the hazy conditions, animals still need to be let out to do their business. American Veterinary Medical Associations advises to only let dogs and cats outside only for brief bathroom breaks if air quality alerts are in effect.

Experts also advise to avoid intense outdoor exercise during periods of poor air quality. Attempt to only exercise pets outdoors when dust and smoke has settled.

In case of evacuations, have a pet evacuation kit ready with items such as:

  • Food. Keep several days’ supply of food in an airtight, waterproof container.
  • Water. Store a water bowl and several days’ supply of water.
  • Medicine. Keep an extra supply of the medicine your pet takes on a regular basis in a waterproof container.
  • First aid kit. Talk to your veterinarian about what is most appropriate for your pet’s emergency medical needs.
  • Collar with ID tag and a harness or leash. Include a backup leash, collar and ID tag. Have copies of your pet’s registration information and other relevant documents in a waterproof container and available electronically.
  • Traveling bag, crate or sturdy carrier, ideally one for each pet.
  • Grooming items. Pet shampoo, conditioner and other items, in case your pet needs some cleaning up.
  • Sanitation needs. Include pet litter and litter box (if appropriate), newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags and household chlorine bleach to provide for your pet’s sanitation needs.
  • A picture of you and your pet together. If you become separated from your pet during an emergency, a picture of you and your pet together will help you document ownership and allow others to assist you in identifying your pet.
  • Familiar items. Put favorite toys, treats or bedding in your kit. Familiar items can help reduce stress for your pet.

How can we protect outdoor, farm animals from wildlife smoke?

For animals that typically stay outdoors, AVMA shares to limit exercise when smoke is visible, especially not requiring animals to perform any activities that substantively increase airflow into and out of the lungs.

It is also recommended to provide plenty of fresh water near feeding areas. Limit dust exposure by feeding low-dust or dust-free feeds and sprinkling or misting the livestock holding area.

Further tips on how to keep livestock safe during hazy or smoky days include:

  • Plan to give livestock 4 to 6 weeks to recuperate after the air quality returns to normal. Attempting to handle, move, or transport livestock may delay healing and compromise your animals’ performance.
  • Have a livestock evacuation plan ready in advance. If you don’t have enough trailers to quickly transport all of your animals, contact neighbors, local haulers, farmers, producers, or other transportation providers to establish a network of reliable resources that can provide transportation in the event you need to evacuate your animals.
  • Good barn and field maintenance can reduce fire danger for horses and other livestock. Make sure barns and other structures are stable, promptly remove dead trees, clear away brush, and maintain a defensible space around structures.

What to do if your pet is exposed to smoke?

If your animal is exposed to smoke for long periods of time, it is recommended to seek out a medical professional as soon as possible.

As for the signs of possible smoke or dust irritation in animals, American Veterinary Medical Associations experts say symptoms look like:

  • Coughing or gagging
  • Difficulty breathing, including open mouth breathing and increased noise when breathing
  • Eye irritation and excessive watering
  • Inflammation of throat or mouth
  • Nasal discharge
  • Asthma-like symptoms
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Disorientation or stumbling
  • Reduced appetite and/or thirst

Your veterinarian may recommend a complete blood count and serum biochemistry test to rule out any concurrent medical problems, Animal Emergency Care wrote. Advanced imaging such as an X-ray, ultrasound, or computed tomography (CT) scan also may be recommended to check for airway injury and overall respiratory tract function.

Contributing reporting: Jeanine Santucci, USA Today Network


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